Lushan is not one of China’s many sacred Buddhist and Taoist mountains, which attract far more attention and visitors. Within China, the Lushan peaks, in the north of Jiangxi Province, are famous for their literary and historical associations. In ancient times, Lushan was home to famous monks and poets. More recently, it was the site of a Communist Party conference in 1959, when Peng Dehuai dared to criticize the Great Leap Forward (resulting in his arrest for “rightist tendencies”).
Most of the visitors who come to explore the scenery and historical sites are domestic tourists. Realistically, Lushan can’t compete with other places in China for time in a foreign visitor’s itinerary. But if you live in China and are looking for a non-urban escape, this is a good — and potentially less-crowded — choice.
Things to do
When I visited Lushan in October 2009, my friend and I were mostly interested in Lushan’s natural beauties. With just one full day to explore, we missed visiting any of the “official” historical sites, including the Meilu Villa, Zhou Enlai Residence and the site of the Lushan Conference. We did, however, admire the exteriors of some of the early-20th-century Western-style villas as we searched for a trailhead.
Hike to Wu Lao Feng (五老峰)
Lonely Planet suggests Wu Lao Feng as an “excellent destination” for hikers, which we took to mean that we should hike to the place labeled “Wu Lao Feng” on our map. A path seemed to lead there from the village of Guling, where we had spent the night. The difficulty of finding the trailhead should have been a sign that we were doing something wrong, but it wasn’t until after 2+ hours of near-bushwhacking that we reached the entrance to Wu Lao Feng, where we were probably meant to begin. Once we were there, it was a rather short hike to the first three (of five) peaks, which boasted views of the mountains and the plains beyond.
You’ll probably want to take a taxi or one of the park buses from Guling to the entrance to Wu Lao Feng. From there, it is about a 30-minute hike to the first peak. Getting to the farthest peak is supposed to take about 2 hours.
Restaurants and Accommodation
Restaurants and hotels for visitors to Lushan are concentrated in the town of Guling, where buses from Nanchang and Jiujiang will drop you off. Guling has banks aplenty and several grocery stores, so don’t worry about bringing supplies from elsewhere. If you’re looking for fresh fruit or a cheap breakfast, look for the market that sets up down a flight of stairs off the main road.
We ate fine, but unmemorably in Lushan. Most restaurants post the prices of a few dishes (usually their cheapest) outside of their doors, and reasonably-priced food can be found at most places. You may have to comb through the menu with a fine-toothed comb to find the deals, however, as many of the meatier dishes are astronomically priced.
Guling Zhengfu Binguan
We stayed here because it was the cheapest option listed in Lonely Planet, and we got basically exactly what we expected. Though it is ostensibly the “government hotel,” there is no longer any connection. It’s a standard, slightly run-down Chinese hotel: two single beds instead of a double in most if not all of the rooms, with no towels but plenty of hot water for tea. Ask for a room with its own water heater — otherwise you’ll be taking a c-c-c-cold shower in the morning. The best thing about the hotel was the staff, who were attentive to the point of independently offering to change our room once one with a hot water heater became available.
A double room cost 80 RMB per night in mid-October. Expect to pay more during the summer high season. I recommend calling at least a few hours ahead — when we first walked in, they tried to charge us double before we made it clear that we had a reservation. (The phone number is 0792 829 6282.) The hotel is located up a flight of stairs behind the police station on Lushan Zheng Jie.
We arrived at Lushan by bus directly from Nanchang, the provincial capital. On our way back, we went from Lushan to Jiujiang and from there to Nanchang because the direct buses to Nanchang only ran three times per day in the low season. From Nanchang’s long distance bus station to Lushan costs 50 RMB (3 hours). The windy ride from Lushan to Jiujiang (departing from the main street in Guling) takes about 1 hour and costs 10 RMB. A ticket from Jiujiang to Nanchang costs 45 RMB (2 hours).